What are the similarities between the structure of the Roman Republic and the Athenian polis under Pericles? What are the differences (key words: passing laws, paying offices, the role of the Senate)?
The structure of the Roman Republic and the Athenian polis are similar in many ways. Both in ancient Rome and in ancient Athens, the state system was called democratic, the source of all power was the people – citizens with the right to vote. But in reality, there were great differences in control systems. If in Athens, indeed, citizens actively participated in the adoption of laws and the administration of the state, then in the system of government in Rome there were signs of both popular rule and the power of oligarchs and even signs of a monarchy. Developed governments had to adhere to strict principles of separation of powers. No ogan of government could represent the Roman people as a whole. This included not only the necessary guarantees against the usurpation of power, but also the requirement to “act with the people.” The presence of mutual checks of various state bodies was in Roman law a guarantee of the realization of the people’s will. At the same time, the good of the people was recognized as the highest law and the highest principle of organizing power.
Adoption of laws. Laws in the Athenian city and the Roman Republic were adopted at the National Assembly.
• In Ancient Athens, any citizen could initiate a law that was discussed and developed in the Council of 500 and submitted for approval to the National Assembly.
• In ancient Rome, only consuls or tribunes could act as initiators of laws, the Senate was involved in the development of laws, that is, those people who were considered to have at least something to understand. Then the agenda of the National Assembly was approved in the Senate, and the consuls were to announce the meeting of the National Assembly. At the meeting, citizens passed the law, but it still had to be approved in the Senate.
Elected offices. Both in ancient Rome and in the Athenian polis there were elective offices.
• In Athens, the highest elected positions were strategists who were accountable to the People’s Assembly.
• In Rome – consuls. This position was also collegial, since there were always two consuls. To make any decision, they had to coordinate it with each other, since each of them could block the other’s decision. Consuls possessed the highest civil and military power, recruited legions and led them, convened the Senate and People’s Assemblies (comitia), presided over them, appointed dictators, etc. In extreme circumstances, the Senate endowed consuls with unlimited powers.
• In the Roman Republic there was no payment for the performance of elective duties, therefore, such positions were often occupied by wealthy people. In Athens, they paid for the performance of such duties and take public positions, and therefore, everyone could take a direct part in governing the state.
National assemblies. There were National Assemblies in the Roman Republic and the Athenian city, but their role and significance were different.
• In Athens, the People’s Assembly was the supreme body of power that passed laws, elected strategists and candidates for other elective positions, controlled financial expenditures, and decided important issues in the life of the polis, war and peace.
• In ancient Rome, the role of the People’s Assemblies was not so significant. Citizens at such meetings elected and, as it were, delegated their power to various executive bodies, and those, in turn, were supposed to consult with the people on important decisions.
Collegiate management bodies. Collegiate governing bodies existed in Athens and Rome.
• The Senate in Ancient Rome – a collection of “best people” called to lead the entire community. The Senate was formed mainly from those who, through their previous activities, proved their ability to lead the people – that is, from former officials, military leaders, etc., and also met a high property qualification. Later, the title of senator became hereditary, associated with the observance of certain legal restrictions and, in fact, became not only a state and political rank, but also an estate designation. The Senate was considered, as it were, the “guardian” of the Roman people and therefore had some imperative powers: it could not approve the law adopted by the assembly (but did not have the right to adopt the law), represented the republic in foreign relations, was in charge of the state treasury, and controlled the activities of officials. However, influencing the choice of officials, i.e. ultimately, on its own, the Senate did not.
• Unlike the Senate in ancient Rome, the collegiate governing bodies in Athens did not have such power. The role of the council of archons only diminished over time, and the Council of 500 was only a working body of the National Assembly, in which laws were developed.